Stickman Readers' Submissions August 19th, 2010


It appears I can’t come up with 800 words as often as I once could, or maybe it’s just that my attention has been diverted elsewhere. Either way I’m going to respond to a few recent submissions which have caught my interest and maybe
that way I’ll end up with 800 words.

Anonymous – Snap Happy Farang Women

He Clinic Bangkok

I sent him a personal note worth sharing here:

Dear Anonymous;

I want to thank you for articulating so well how this thoughtless behavior made you feel. I can’t fault your observations. You see, this is a subject I've written about in my weekly column on numerous occasions, but from the perspective of the local Thai people so often rudely photographed for no other reason than being a "curiosity", the more of a curiosity the local appears to the tourists, the more they are photographed. Most often without a positive word, smile, or even an acknowledgment they exist for anything other than our personal amusement.

CBD bangkok

On the other hand, and I'm sure Stick will confirm, there is a certain amount of skill to approaching a stranger and earning their photograph and making them feel positive at the same time. When photographing someone because they stand out from the 'norm', this is a hard thing to do. Even when making candid captures I'll approach the person afterwards, show them the image, and am always prepared to delete the image if they're unhappy with the image in any way.

It doesn't take much to become a curiosity, a significant difference in status, age, size, or beauty being the most common. You've pointed out how far a positive demeanor and a few kind words might have went towards making the experience more positive. In Thailand a sincere smile and willingness to share the image on the LCD goes even further.

We must always remember the locals, and the tourists, are humans first and curiosities last. There is much between the two and it only enriches us to experience as much of the 'in between' as possible. I'm sorry you were made to feel bad, but I think you did a great thing sharing how it made you feel with so many here. Thank you.


wonderland clinic

Recent Discussions How Much It Takes To Retire in Thailand

I will start and end this part by warning you that there is very little in the financial market you can count on which includes your retirement income, the exchange rate, or local inflation. Always OVERESTIMATE by more than 100%. If you think you can
live here on 50,000 baht a month, then have 100,000 baht a month available.

When I moved back here over 5 years ago I had the advantage of many years in Asia and about 4-5 years in Thailand previously. This time when I moved back I challenged myself to the 100% rule and actually set myself up to live on exactly half of my retirement
income only. Other investment accounts, earned income, and interest on accounts were separate. I’m talking about half of my retirement check which in this case was/is a US Treasury Government check which is about as secure an income as
there is.

For half my retirement I found a nice 4 bedroom condominium I live still live in today, and I include gas, vehicle service, insurance, utilities, mobile phone, groceries, entertainment, travel and other minor expenses. For the first 6-8 months I did pretty
good living within this budget and enjoyed my life in Thailand. Then the dollar started falling. And kept falling.

As it fell in increments, I watched people I knew from the USA and other countries leaving Thailand in increments. It started with the people without a safety margin. Then it hit people who had included a 10% margin, and then a 20% margin, and right on
down the line. Many people I know moved out of nice apartments and condos and found more affordable lodging. People I used to travel with and had the extra funds for a road trip every now and then no longer had the extra funds. And I noticed a
growing resentment towards anyone who did have funds, especially if it afforded them a decent lifestyle, a vehicle to drive, and a fair amount of travel.

Everyone I knew was tightening their belts, letting housekeepers go, getting rid of cars, downsizing living quarters, but most of all they weren’t going out as much and doing the things they enjoy doing. Entertainment. When you no longer have money
for entertainment you no longer will do the things you enjoy. My entertainment revolves heavily around books, television, eating out with friends, and most of all traveling. I enjoy nothing more in the world than loading up my car with my cameras
and heading off to parts previously unknown. All of a sudden I noticed it took 3000 baht to fill my tank instead of the 1200 baht it used to. And the 3000 baht cost me the same as 2000 baht used to when you factored in the dollar’s exchange
rate. Meanwhile the SEA economy was roaring right along and inflation with it. Hotels cost more, eating out cost more, everything in Thailand costs a good 20-30% more today than it did just five years ago.

Fortunately for me I’d included what many had told me was an unreasonably large safety margin into my plans. 100%. I still live in the same place and do basically the same things I did before, but I can no longer save as much as I used to. Save?
Yes, even into retirement, and I’ve been at least semi-retired since age 38, even into retirement you should plan to continue saving. Saving increases your safety margin against all the things that can go wrong. And we know if things can
go wrong, then they will. Saving also allows your standard of living to increase as you age, not decrease.

I’ve considered downsizing and cutting my expenses to increase my savings percentage and adjust for the falling exchange rate and local inflation, but I’ll be direct about this. There is a minimum lifestyle I’m willing to live here
in Thailand. It’s no fun at all to live in a foreign country on a strict budget or even consider approaching an average Thai lifestyle. My retirement income is enough to live comfortably in my own country, so if I must I’d rather
move back home then live a lifestyle much different than I enjoy now. It’s not that I’m spoiled, it's only that I have choices. And I have choices because I’ve planned to have choices and worked and saved for them. Choices
like a 100% safety margin when first moving here. I hated to see them go, but the people laughing at me then are no longer living here. And somehow I doubt they’re living that great back in their own countries.

Cutting your professional career short, cashing in your home and pensions, and moving to a foreign country is probably the most risky thing most people have ever done. In most cases there is no going back. In this economy there’s not many job openings
for a 40-50 year old guy with a 5-10 year void in their resume/CV. At least not at anywhere near what you left behind. And guess what, while you were in Thailand prices back home for homes, cars, and all your expenses have probably gone up significantly
as well. This is what makes going back such a hard pill to swallow for so many. Because when they go back they’re not going back to their comfortable lifestyle they once had, with the nice house, newer car, and nice paycheck. They’ve
been left behind and they’re going back home financially beaten to live a lifestyle previously never considered. In many cases below the poverty line, in some cases on public assistance.

I’ve seen others move here thinking they’ll start a business and “pick up extra money on the side.” These are almost always people who have always been an employee, and not an employer. Starting a business
takes considerable financial investment and usually several years to start realizing a profit. In a place like Thailand it can be very difficult to compete on an equal basis. If you don’t have a great amount of business experience in your
own country then you’re playing in a minefield here. Really, you need to spend years just understanding the culture, making contacts, and learning the local market before starting a business. It’s not easy in the least. And keep
in mind, most people coming to Thailand are in the “it should cost less here because it’s Thailand” mindset. I had a European wife tell me this directly in regards to my quote for her daughter's senior pictures.
She wasn’t the first. Remember, you’re competing with people who either have more money than God and run a business as a quaint pastime while taking advantage of very low labor rates, or locals trying to scratch out a living working
for themselves. There isn’t much of a middle class business environment here at all.

People's standards vary as well. I live at a much lower level than I lived in the states, yet I’ve been told I live much better here than the average expat. Where’s the bar? The bar can be hard to find when you consider we are truly
an international expat community here in the Kingdom. An “average” standard of living for an Aussie or Kiwi could be totally different than for an Yank or Brit. Or even more different for a Frog or German. I’ve
had guys telling me they were living better here than in their home countries, but their homes here in Thailand were nothing more than an inexpensive furnished apartment. They didn’t even own their own furniture, their most valuable possession
usually being their laptop. Before accepting anyone’s estimate for how much it cost to live in Thailand, you must consider the person behind the estimate, their place in life, their country of origin, family status, and much more. You need
to be very selective to whom you listen.

And while I’m far from a financial expert, I do know interest rates, fund returns, and buy rates all depend on the discount rate of the country of origin. Stick quoted a 6% return at Aussie banks and that’s great, but can anyone get an account
there <YesStick> and can you do it from another country <Not sureStick>, and if so what are the tax liabilities? <non-resident withholding tax at 10%Stick>
How much does it cost to transfer that money here to Thailand? I don’t know these answers but I’d check into them. It wasn’t long ago that I could get an 8-10% return on money market accounts in the US.. but shortly after
they were less than 2%. If you’re retirement income consists mainly of investment accounts then you really need to learn and understand the international market and keep abreast of the best rates and trends in numerous countries. The complexity
and legalities of this keep legions of accountants and lawyers well employed.

Instead of how much it costs to retire in Thailand.. perhaps one should think in terms of how many years it takes to save, plan, and prepare for retirement. I started at 17. I know before my 18 birthday where my retirement check would be coming from when
I was 38. And I knew that while I could ‘live’ on that check, it sure wouldn’t be any fun. So I’d need to supplement that check with investments and perhaps part time work. I made the plan, and then
lived the plan. And of course there were the usual setbacks from divorce settlements and the such.. but we plan for those as well right?

Not Your Average ABC’s Sawadee 2000

I cringe every time I see one of Sawadee’s political soapbox rants, and I gagged on my Wheaties when he labeled himself a moderate, but in a short note to a friend I admitted I agreed with him on this topic. At least to a point.

You know.. on the topic specifically.. children and exposure to guns.. you might be surprised to learn I never allowed my boys to have a toy gun or toy weapon of any type.. nor did we read books or watch any cartoons using guns. I think they still don’t forgive me for missing out on Yosemite Sam.. ;o)

However, each boy started learning to shoot a real gun ‘around’ the age of 4. It depended on the boy and his development. Also if they were interested or not. By 10 each boy was able to use the range (because I owned a business making custom firearms I have several ranges on my property) unsupervised. They also each owned specific types of weapons.. a .22 revolver, a .22 semi-auto rifle, and when they reach 18 they receive a hand built customized (by me) .45acp 1911a1 as my ‘coming of age’ gift.

I suppose.. having been a police officer and in the military I knew exactly what guns could do.. and I really don’t believe guns should be ‘play things’ and marketed to kids as toys or entertainment in cartoons or shows. They need to know guns are very real, very dangerous, and also when they’re very appropriate. Kids have enough issues in life without Hollywood and Madison Avenue telling them guns are play things.

Results? So far no deranged kids. Each boy has a set of skills regarding firearms and the outdoors that would embarrass most adults in comparison. When my middle son at 17 graduated from the Marine Corp boot camp and was recognized not only for being the youngest Marine in that boot camp battalion (10 companies of 70-80 men), but also for earning the highest score on the range. At 17 he was the best there. After two combat tours in Iraq he now teaches AP Calculus at a high school in the mid-west. The youngest will be starting university next year and is already being recruited by several top universities, however liberal they might be..

I guess that wraps it up. Did I make 800 words?

Until Next Time..

Stickman's thoughts:

Will only comment on the retirement bit. I very much agree with you (and Mac) who state that one should make sure there is a lot of fat in their budget and plenty for emergencies. Like you, I have seen many retire early and forced to leave….in fact I think I recognised one or two people you alluded to! 🙂

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